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Diversity and Inclusion

4 point checklist for supporting parental leave

A raft of research shows that parents in the workplace accomplish more and make better leaders. They are more likely to trust their instincts, be strategic with time, multitask efficiently, cope with stress and negotiate. They have the potential to be rockstars. Unfortunately, the stage is not set up for them and it’s only getting worse. This is why they need you to help support them through their leave and beyond.

So, how can you cover the bases before they leave?
Here’s a four-point checklist… With a few checklists nested inside.

  1. Celebration & Reassurance
    “Congratulations! How are you feeling!? We’ll help you organize everything ahead.”
    📆 When the pregnancy is disclosed
  2. Transition Plan
    “Let’s get ready and document all of our agreements and actions.”
    📆 Three months prior to the due date
  3. Clarifications for Off-ramping
    “Let’s update the transition plan with any tweaks that will make this work for you, finalize key dates for keeping in touch, prioritize workload…. and share in some excitement!”
    📆 A month prior to the due date

⚠️ Beware ⚠️ In the last 5 years, the number of women who would be worried to tell their boss they are expecting a child has nearly doubled from 12% to 21%.

Be mindful of this in the Celebration & Reassurance meeting and ask if they’d like you to take over breaking the news to anyone.

This tip helps you and the parent see the safety net that the organization can offer. Running scenarios means to sit down and discuss “what if’s and related actions or contingency plans.

  • What if the baby is born earlier than expected?
  • What if the parent or baby falls ill around the return day?
  • What if work gets redistributed in the team and the parent comes back to an empty client base?
  • What if everything goes exactly as expected?

Run core scenarios in your transition plan meeting, but also use them to assuage specific concerns whenever they come up.

The three-meeting model means every parent receives a structured dose of core support. Yet, experiences vary!

Explain that communication is open-door. To help both of you, discuss the best way to get in touch ad-hoc and the expected time frame for your reply.

💡 Make it clear the expecting parent can bring a buddy. This extra set of ears can offer a supporting view, absorb all the information or just be there as designated hand squeezer – sometimes that’s what you need most.

Really help the expecting parent feel comforted and connected to the organization by matching them with someone that’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt.

The UK’s NHS does this with new patients: they match them with someone who’s been through a specific treatment or live with a condition.

This “Coffee Roulette for Parents” trick ties together networking and support and costs you only a few minutes a month.

  1. Collect emails from existing and expecting parents who are happy to meet one person monthly for a Skype call or cuppa.
  2. Put all the emails in an Excel spreadsheet – one column for parents at the organization that have returned and settled, one column for expecting and new parents.
  3. Shuffle the longest column.
  4. Voila! A list of pairs. If people in the longest column haven’t been matched, you can either match them to each other with the same method or mark them as having that month “off”.
  5. Copy-paste the table of pairs into an email to all participants and suggest they organize their meet with their match themselves.
  6. Done and dusted until next month. It’s up to participants to tell you when they want to be removed or when they want to migrate to the “settled” column!

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The bottom line?

Supporting expecting parents before their child’s arrival is about getting communication, planning and anxiety management right.

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4 point checklist for supporting parental leave

Have anything else to add? We’re always keen to hear your feedback! Drop your comments, suggestions, or whatever else you’d like to talk about here.

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Fiona Young (she/her)

Having previously led Learning and Development for 3,000 people at Europe’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, Fiona knows a thing or two about how to build high performance culture. As Content Director at Hive Learning, Fiona pioneered the organisation's leading guided content programmes which are designed to turn learning into action. Most recently, Fiona led the inception, development and delivery of Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the world’s first diversity and inclusion programme focused on turning unconscious bias into conscious action - created from over 1,000 leading sources.